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Men’s Mental Health Month

 

“Men are supposed to be tough!”

 

Our society has this perception that men need to be tough and that seeking help for mental health issues is seen as weakness. This is a major issue, and this notion could not be further from the truth. In this week’s blog, we aim to shed some light on some unfortunate statistics that showcase the negative impact of this perception while also pointing towards some resources to help those in need get the help they deserve, and should be seeking out without fear of ridicule.

 

When we talk about the health of an individual, we aren’t solely talking about the absence of illness, but a state of mental, physical, and social well-being. Mental health is such a vital component of overall wellness, but is often overlooked as a negligible determinant of our overall health picture. More than 42 million Americans experience a mental illness each year, and we are focusing on one group in particular this month. June is Men’s Health Month, and we are exploring the critical mental health needs of men, as part of their overall health and wellness.

 

The following statistics help us to understand the complex needs surrounding men and their mental health:

 

Nearly 1 in 10 men experience depression and anxiety. That’s 162 Million men just in the USA alone!

According to a poll of 21,000 American men by researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), nearly one in ten men reported experiencing some form of depression or anxiety, but less than half sought treatment.

 

Men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women. Men experience a higher rate of suicide than women specifically because they do not seek out the help they need. Depression, when left untreated, can in some cases reach a crisis point of suicidal thoughts/contemplation. With so few men reaching out for help or support, and instead suffering in silence, this is a major contributing factor in why men face a higher suicide rate. You should never have to suffer in silence over the fear of perception if you talk to someone.

 

Forty-nine percent of men feel more depressed than they admit to the people in their life. A Today Show commissioned survey of more than 1,000 men revealed the truth that many assume. Men are much less likely to voice struggles with mental illness, and even thoughts of suicide.

 

Making the decision to start a conversation with a friend or loved one about mental health is not an easy thing to do, and takes tremendous courage and strength. The Canadian Men’s Health Foundation has produced a great video on the subject of approaching these tough conversations – Click here to watch it

 

It’s likely that someone you know is experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety, and you have the power to make a difference in their lives. Take action for Men’s Health Month by looking out for those that you love. Check in with the men in your life, and make sure they are doing okay. The more awareness we bring to this subject, the more the perception will shift, and more men’s lives will potentially be saved as a result. If you are a man reading this, if you need help, this is an opportunity to not only get the help you need, but also to set an example for other men out there. The importance of de-stigmatizing men’s mental health cannot be stressed enough, and the responsibility lies with every one of us.

 

For more information on this subject, or resources if you need help, please visit:

https://menshealthfoundation.ca/

https://www.faceitfoundation.org/

SHiFT Spotlight: Peter’s Story

 

This week on our blog, we are doing something different. This week we are starting a new series called “SHiFT Spotlight”. SHiFT Spotlight is a way of celebrating the stories of our community members who have persevered through hardship, stuck to their program and have seen incredibly positive changes in their lives as a result. The goal is to use these stories to inspire everyone to be the best version of themselves, and show that no matter how bad things may seem at times, there is always hope.

This week on our SHiFT Spotlight, we feature Peter Meerwarth. Peter’s struggles with food are all too familiar for many of us food addicts. His story is a compelling one, and one that many of us can relate to different portions of.

 

Hi everyone, I’m Peter; a compulsive overeater.

 

I was a fairly unhappy heavy child growing up on the farm. I was beaten and abused regularly and I turned to food for comfort. I was always dieting and exercising to curb the extra 30-50 pounds of overweight. I started college at 220 pounds and was convinced that being free from home would be the answer to my weight problems, but I graduated at 270 pounds. I got a job and thought that surely being out on my own would be the answer to my overeating, right? I could overhear my new coworkers talking about my weight on the very first day. I tried every diet on the market. I read every diet book. I spent thousands of dollars on gyms, pre-made foods, shakes, pills and diet meetings.

 

Soon, I got married and we had two wonderful sons. Certainly, getting married and buying a house would be the answer to my overweight. My weight soon escalated to 325. I became the music director at a church. In that first year, I gained 100 pounds. At age 35, I was 425 pounds and unable to get off the yo-yo diet cycle. Every Sunday I stood up in front of the congregation to direct the choir. I was mortified. I decided to try bariatric surgery to no avail. I was soon back to my pre-surgery weight. I was embarrassed and felt like a complete public failure. 

 

I turned 40… certainly, this would be the decade that the weight would come off. We moved to another state and I found OA. I cried through my first few meetings because I knew I had found “my people.” My overeating wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t a moral failing like I had always been told. I was accepted. I immediately had success with my physical recovery and followed a food plan that was flour and sugar free. Weighing and measuring my food and working a spiritual program was also part of the plan but I figured that I could lie about those parts since I was having physical success. I kept relapsing.

 

At age 50 I knew for certain that this had to be the decade for the weight to come off – Ha! I had been in and out of OA for 10 years… more out than in. I thought that I knew all of the right words and actions but I just couldn’t apply them to my life. Something must be broken in me. In that time span, I had a second unsuccessful bariatric surgery, I broke my ankle, and then arthritis settled in my knees which made it hard to walk and I developed blood clots in my legs. I bought more of the diet foods I saw on TV. I was still 425 pounds and taking medications for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and blood sugar (which was alarmingly high). 

 

I decided that I was tired of the diet and OA roller coaster. I gave up. From age 50-55 I was in total relapse. I didn’t even try to diet and I didn’t go to any OA meetings. I just ate what I wanted.  I remember eating an entire 2-layer cake with my bare hand while driving. I was committing suicide on the installment plan with each compulsive bite. I couldn’t face my constant failure any longer. I was obsessed with thinking about food and where I would binge next. My life insurance company dropped me when they saw the list of medications I was on. I accepted the writing on the wall that I would simply die a fat man. Why fight it? Diets failed me. My church failed me.  My God failed me. I failed myself. Covid hit and was a great reason for me to isolate and eat all the more. I chose to eat myself into the grave.

 

Then, this past January, at my lowest point, my wife motivated me to try the program once more. She wanted me to know my grandkids and live a long full life together. I cried thinking about not knowing my future grandkids.  My food addiction became life or death for me. I called SHiFT and on January 15, I got sober on their Food Freedom program. I no longer wanted to allow this food-demon to have control over me. It was so much more than a food plan for me, it was a new way of life that I now had a new willingness to follow. I was completely powerless but not hopeless.

 

When the plan said “no flour/no sugar,” I cut it out. When the plan said, “weigh and measure your food,” and even though I had heard about it before, this was the first time I actually had the willingness to do it. The plan said, “no caffeine…” OH BOY! I had been drinking 10-12 mugs of coffee everyday for the last 25 years. I really believe that removing caffeine and weighing and measuring were key factors for me that I previously never had the willingness to do.

 

I spoke with Amanda at SHiFT and she identified me as a low-bottom late stage food addict and suggested that I enroll in a SHiFT INTENSIVE… Boy was she right! I worked with Mary and Phil at the Intensive with lots of emotional work and support around identifying my feelings. 

In SHiFT I came to feel and believe that I was completely powerless over my food addiction and that there is no shame in that. The weight started coming off. 

 

Also, in 50+ years I had never done my spiritual work. Never. It was time to start! I learned about guided meditation and gratitude apps. My knee pain miraculously disappeared and I started walking my dogs and doing chores around the house again. I had more energy than ever. I started to love making phone calls and connecting to total strangers around my program.  After spending my life feeling alone in groups of people, I felt like I was truly a part of every SHiFT or OA meeting I attended. My sponsor, who also got sober in Food Freedom, guided me to the Harlan G. BIG BOOK teachings online and avision4you.com meetings and is constantly focused on my spiritual program (which I always treated as optional).

 

The weight continued to come off. My cholesterol levels became normal. My A1C dropped from 9.2 to 5.5 and my doctor started taking me off my blood sugar medications. It’s June 1 and I’m down 102 pounds from my top weight of 425. I’m not having cravings. I’m actually enjoying the cleanest food plan I’ve ever had. I so admire the stark HONESTY found at SHiFT which has encouraged me to be completely honest around my food for the first time in my life.

 

What would I say to someone considering SHiFT?

 

Be Coachable.

I stopped believing that I knew everything about food, weight loss, and exercise and I simply did what I was told to do.

 

Be Honest.

Share it or wear it. No lying by omission. Trying to look good with my peers only leads me back to the food. Tell all.

 

Work your Spiritual Program.

I had to fire my old God and find a new Higher Power and work my daily spiritual program of walking, reading, meditation, gratitude, writing, and Big Book step work. That’s where the answers are as I recover the person that I was born to be.

 

Stay Connected.

The opposite of addiction is connection with my Higher Power. Make those phone calls and ask questions about their HP/food program. Share your experience, strength, and hope.

 

A special thank you to Peter for being willing to share his story with us all. Hopefully we can all take lessons from his advise and put it into practice in our own lives.

If you would like to have your story featured, please reach out to us at contact@foodaddiction.com

Jubilant June

 

Welcome to Jubilant June!

I know what you’re asking yourself… “What does Jubilant” mean?”

Jubilant is defined as feeling or expressing great happiness and triumph.

Now how does Jubilance relate to recovery?

 

We asked our team at SHiFT to describe what “Jubilant June” means to them in the context of recovery:

 

Mary:

When we first started talking about “Jubilant June”, I was reminded of the part in the big book on page 132 where it says: “We are not a glum lot, if newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn’t want it! We absolutely insist on enjoying life.” 

When I first got abstinent for my 100th try after surviving relapse, I thought.. “life will not be worth living, if I don’t have my food I’m going to be depressed, I’m going to feel deprived.. Why even go on?”

What I found by getting abstinent and getting/staying connected with people, working with the steps, I found a life that I never believed possible. There is so much joy, so much happiness, and so much jubilance in life today! I hope you are experiencing Jubilant June with us and sharing in the joy!

 

Calen:

It’s Jubilant June. What does that mean to me?

Well for me, it means that I have found great joy in a way of living that allows me to triumph over this disease of compulsive eating one day at a time.

It gives me joy in that I can move my body in ways that it never could before, that I can do things that I could never do, I can go places, and it’s given me great new friendships. All these things are cause for great joy within me, and I am so so grateful for my recovery because, wow it has just transformed my life and given me great joy!

 

Karla:

What does Jubilant June mean to me?

What goes on for me in the context of my recovery is that I’m reminded of being very shut off from my feelings and my body, and sort of running a low grade misery that I didn’t even realize was there for most of my life. Now, coming in contact with my body and being sober, I’m able to really connect with the happiness, the joy that is involved in my recovery as well as the feeling of pride which I think goes into jubilance right? It’s happiness and triumph!

How I experience that is, I feel very open-hearted. I get to feel this quite a bit actually in recovery, I get to feel a lot of the happiness that really wasn’t part of my life before. I was shut off to it, I was miserable, I was in the food, or whatever else I was up to. It was missing from my life and I didn’t know it was, actually. In recovery, I feel proud, I feel happy and I feel connected with other people. So, for those of us that are in recovery, we might be able to reflect on the same thing!

 

We hope that you experience Jubilance this month! Check back on our social platforms for more themed content throughout the month.

Mindfulness & Self-Care Checklist

As Mindful May comes to an end, we wanted to provide you with a tool to help assess where you are at and potentially help start you on your path to practice mindfulness more regularly.

 

It’s a busy world with a relentless pace. You cook dinner or fold the laundry while keeping one eye on the kids and another on the television. You plan your day while listening to the radio and commuting to work, and then plan your weekend all at the same time. But in the rush to accomplish the necessary tasks off the daily to-do list, you can easily find yourself losing your connection with the present moment. Days, weeks, even months can drift by all while missing out on truly taking stock of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling.

 

Taking care of yourself and working on your program of recovery are two in the same. I heard someone recently share that recovery is simply taking good care of myself in all areas of my life; physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually. 

 

Am I looking after my physical body? 

Am I looking after my emotional health?

How are my relationships?

Do I follow a daily spiritual practice?

 

In order for me to truly look after myself, I need to take care of my whole being. If one pillar of my foundation is shaky then truly my whole being is off kilter. The scary part is that I may not even notice I have a shaky pillar until all four of my pillars are in jeopardy and then I am in a pretty desperate situation.

 

When was the last time you took time to check in with yourself and deeply examine how you are doing/feeling? Not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually too?

It’s vital for me, especially as an addict in recovery, to take a pulse check often of how I’m doing in all areas of my life as it is very easy for me to slip back into poor self-care.

 

Below we’ve shared a tool called The Recovery Grid, created by Roland Williams. It is a checklist for you to go over and assess your overall self-care/health picture:

If you take the time to focus on yourself and answer these questions honestly without the presence of distractions, you are practicing mindfulness – Congratulations!

 

This chart is by no means perfect, however if you regularly assess these questions in a thoughtful way, carefully examining your feelings and answers, you can avoid creating a shaky foundation by neglecting one of your pillars.

 

We hope that you found this information helpful, and hope that mindfulness becomes a regular part of your life moving forward 🙂

 

Peace & Abstinence

Sharing SHiFTs by Amanda ~ New Relapse Prevention Meetings

Relapse can be a scary word. I have every right to be afraid of relapse. It could kill me. While relapse is common in addiction recovery, relapse is not inevitable nor is it mandatory!  The more we understand the relapse process, the less threatening it needs to be. Preventing a relapse is far easier than working to find recovery again. At SHiFT, we witness each day how much more difficult it is to come back from a relapse than it is to prevent one.

 

The relapse process starts long before we take the first bite or pick up our substance. Let me be crystal clear, eating even one bite of foods that cause an emotional and/or physiological reaction in your body leads directly to relapse. While it may not happen immediately, it won’t take long before the overwhelming cravings become too powerful to resist.

 

Though this may sound pessimistic, the good news is that you have a choice. Even though you may already know this, seeing this warning written down, will help to make it real and making it real means that you can prepare yourself to prevent a relapse.

 

The single most important way to deal with these feelings and to prevent a relapse is to stay as close to your recovery program as possible. Connect with others who are food dependent.  Keep going to support groups.

 

At SHiFT, we strongly believe in the importance of staying connected with your SHiFT Alumni network. It offers a safe place to be accountable and honest with others.

 

That’s why we’re excited to announce that we are starting a New Monthly Relapse Prevention Alumni Meeting! This free support meeting will be open to all SHiFT alumni, and will take place on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 5pm PST / 8pm EST.

 

We will send out an email reminder before each upcoming meeting so make sure to check your email for the zoom link, and for more details! We hope to see you there! 

 

In the meanwhile, here’s a helpful tip for you:

 

For food addicts in recovery, remembering where they came from is an important relapse prevention technique. Thinking about how demoralizing it felt to run to the refrigerator every few minutes to eat is sometimes all the motivation a recovering food addict needs to continue in recovery.

During emotionally-challenging times, it may take a little more remembering to prevent a relapse. This can almost always be done by reviewing a first step writing or taking a few minutes to journal about the food addict’s last binge, specifically what it felt like before, during and after bingeing.

 

Thanks for reading, hope to see you next Tuesday, May 25th at our first meeting!

 

Sharing SHiFTs by Amanda ~ Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month.

 

This past year presented so many different challenges and obstacles that tested our strength and resiliency. The global pandemic forced us to cope with situations we never even imagined, and a lot of us struggled with our mental health as a result. The good news is that there are tools and resources available that can support the well-being of individuals and communities.

 

Now, more than ever, we need to combat the stigma surrounding mental health concerns. That’s why this Mental Health Month SHiFT is highlighting #Tools2Thrive – what individuals can do throughout their daily lives to prioritize mental health, build resiliency, and continue to cope with the obstacles of COVID-19.

 

Throughout the pandemic, many people who had never experienced mental health challenges found themselves struggling for the first time. During the month of May, we are focusing on different topics that can help process the events of the past year and the feelings that surround them, while also building up skills and supports that extend beyond COVID-19.

 

We know that the past year forced many to accept tough situations that they had little to no control over. If you found that it impacted your mental health, you aren’t alone. In fact, of the almost half a million individuals that took the anxiety screening at MHAscreening.org, 79% showed symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety. However, there are practical tools that can help improve your mental health. We are focused on managing anger and frustration, recognizing when trauma may be affecting your mental health, challenging negative thinking patterns, and making time to take care of yourself.

 

Much like recovery, It’s important to remember that working on your mental health and finding tools that help you thrive takes time. Change won’t happen overnight. Instead, by focusing on small changes, you can move through the stressors of the past year and develop long-term strategies to support yourself on an ongoing basis.

 

A great starting point for anyone who is ready to start prioritizing their mental health is to take a mental health screening at MHAscreening.org. It’s a quick, free, and confidential way for someone to assess their mental health and begin finding hope and healing.

 

Ultimately, during this month of May, SHiFT wants to remind everyone that mental illnesses are real, and recovery is possible. By developing your own #Tools2Thrive, it is possible to find balance between life’s ups and downs and continue to cope with the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

 

For more information, visit https://www.mhanational.org/mental-health-month